The Ultimate Guide to Losing Weight After Pregnancy
The time after you give birth to your precious little one is a time to cherish. They are times full of that newborn smell, bonding with your new child and a feeling of overwhelming love.
For many women, however, there are also some conflicting feelings. Women may worry about how to get their body back to their pre-pregnancy weight.
During pregnancy, the average woman will gain between 22 to 26 lbs in body weight. This is perfectly normal, though having this excess weight can certainly be frustrating for women that may be feeling a little alien in their new body now their baby is out in the world.
So, how do you lose weight after pregnancy in a healthy way? Here’s everything you need to know.
The High Level Notes: What to Keep In Mind
The Mind: Post Natal Psychology
We all know that the body changes during pregnancy to accommodate your baby, but what about the mind? One fact is abundantly clear: a woman’s mind changes a lot both during pregnancy and during the post natal period.
During pregnancy, a woman may experience the urge to start cleaning to prepare for their baby, or they may have cravings. Certain instincts also set in once the baby has arrived, and that may mean that a woman experiences behavioral and mental changes too.
When you gave birth to your baby, you may have noticed that it was like a light switch had gone off – you instantly fell in love.
Well, that’s because you release feel-good hormones such as dopamine and oxytocin into your blood, and this adds to a feeling of love for your baby. There are very few times when you feel more love than when you’re cradling your newborn in your arms.
Not only this, but you may find yourself becoming more alert as a result of your brain’s salience network, which is theorized to help mom to detect any threats and protect their baby.
Your hormones play a big part in your mental and emotional health after pregnancy, but it’s not always good for new mothers. After you give birth, your estrogen and progesterone levels experience a huge drop, and this can lead to mood issues commonly known as the ‘baby blues.’
It’s important to keep an eye on your mental health after pregnancy, as postpartum depression can affect many mothers, along with other mental health conditions such as anxiety.
While having a new baby can be exhilarating, it can also be mentally and emotionally exhausting for a new mom as they experience all these new changes in their life.
The Body: Your Body & Your Baby
Perhaps the most noticeable change after giving birth is in your body. After all, you’ve been growing a tiny human for the past 9 months inside of you!
All sorts of things can happen to your body after giving birth. First of all, you’ll experience symptoms such as pain in the weeks following the birth as your body recovers from the experience.
Seeing your doctor regularly can be beneficial to ensure that any pains and body changes that you experience after birth are healthy.
Your breasts are also likely to get larger as they fill up with milk to feed your baby. They may also feel quite sore, but this symptom should go away once you start breastfeeding on a regular basis.
After you give birth, you will find that you lose roughly 10 pounds or so after you give birth. This means it’s a great time to start getting back to a healthy weight by practicing good nutrition.
You may not feel up to exercising in the early weeks, but getting your nutrition in check is a good place to start.
Further complications can come into play if you delivered via C Section. This can take a while to recover from, and you may feel a little tired for a couple of days or weeks after the surgery.
The Spirit: Working with Your Emotions
Pregnancy and giving birth can invite a whole host of crazy new emotions to your life. You may experience many things at once, even emotions that may conflict with one another.
You may feel sadness after you’ve given birth. Having a new baby can be a little overwhelming, you could feel sad because you’re still getting to grips with motherhood and may not be perfect at everything right away, or you may feel sad as a result of your hormones.
Fear is another common problem. Even if you didn’t worry a lot before becoming a mother, you may find yourself worrying about the tiniest thing.
You may worry about taking care of your baby correctly if you’ve never done it before. This is a perfectly natural emotion to have.
Of course, you’ll likely also feel extreme happiness. Even the tiniest of movements from your baby can make your heart swell. You could also feel very sensitive to everything – crying about your partner not getting the dishes done is a pretty common occurrence!
There’s a lot going on with your emotions, mind and body after you give birth, and these things can sometimes make it a little more challenging for you to lose weight. With the right action plan, however, you can lose that baby fat in no time in a healthy, sustainable way.
The Plan: Approaching & Sustaining Your Weight Loss Journey
A well thought out and practical strategy is the first step in losing weight and keeping it off.
Often when it comes to losing weight, simply getting started can be the hardest part. This is especially true during the postpartum period, when the idea of getting up and exercising may not appeal to you at all.
To begin with, you will need to make sure that you determine your daily calorie intake. Losing weight is all about expending more calories than you consume, but you need to ensure that you do this in a healthy way, especially considering the state of your body and mind in the months following the birth.
The average calorie intake for a woman is 2,000 calories, but this can differ for a range of reasons, such as height and the amount of exercise you do. Your calorie intake may also change if you are breastfeeding.
On that note, you will also need to take some time to plan out your physical activity. When you haven’t long given birth, you may need to start slow.
If you exercised a lot before getting pregnant and were running whole marathons, you may not be able to do that much yet if you haven’t long given birth.
You’ll also need to make sure you have all of your equipment in order, such as a weighing scale both for you and for your food, some great recipe books, exercise equipment and maybe even a fitness tracker so you can keep track of everything you’re doing!
Being prepared and making yourself as knowledgeable as possible about losing weight postpartum is a great way to ensure you are successful in your endeavors.
Then, it’s just a matter of getting started!
Setting Realistic Goals
Setting realistic goals is crucial when it comes to losing weight, but especially after you’ve had a baby.
As we’ve said, you’ll lose about 10 pounds or so automatically once you give birth, but from there it may not be so easy.
Weight loss is a slow process, so you will need to ensure that you consult with your doctor so you can set a reasonable goal based on your body and personal circumstances.
A loss of around 0.5 to 1.5 lbs a week is very healthy, though it may seem small at first.
This would mean you would need to be in a calorie deficit of roughly 3500 to 5250 calories a week. This translates to a deficit of roughly 500 to 750 a day.
You should also be careful not to compare yourself to other people that have lost weight, such as friends who have shed their baby weight. A lot of mothers do tend to lose the vast majority of their baby weight after about 6 months, but this isn’t true of every single person.
Things such as age, diet, height and the amount you move can influence how many calories you burn on a daily basis. The more weight you gain during pregnancy, the longer it can also take to lose that weight.
You also should try to avoid any quick fix diets. The right nutrition is so important when losing weight, especially if you’re going to be breastfeeding while doing so.
This means having a balanced plate – restricting whole food groups may allow you to see a quick change on the scale, but it may not be sustainable for you in the long term. This may mean that you gain back all of the weight that you’ve lost after a couple of months.
The Guide: Expert Tips for Post Pregnancy and Weight Loss
What Types of Food Should You Eat?
The kinds of food that you eat can have a big impact on your postpartum health, so it’s important to make sure that you are making the best decisions for you to get all the healthy nutrients that you need.
You may think that the best thing to do to lose weight after pregnancy is to dramatically decrease your intake of carbohydrates, but this is certainly not the case.
Carbohydrates are crucial for new mothers, as they help with your breast milk production.
They’re also important for things like regulating your hormones and keeping your mental health in check.
Fortunately, carbohydrates are all part of having a balanced diet, so it is certainly possible to lose weight while still eating them.
When you’re planning your diet for weight loss, you don’t need to make any crazy restrictions. It is vital that you create meals that have healthy sources of the following things:
- Fiber-rich carbohydrates
The amount of these that you eat will largely depend on your overall caloric intake. You will also need to consider any other pre-existing conditions that you have that may alter how you need to eat. If you have any doubts, you should consult with your doctor.
There are also some other things that you should remember. First of all, try to ensure that you put some time aside each morning to have a healthy, balanced breakfast.
You should also try to make sure that you eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day – you can even incorporate these into your breakfast.
You should also make sure that you have a lot of foods with plenty of fiber, such as oats, grains and different seeds. Starchy foods are also important, like pasta, rice and bread.
You should also try to keep an eye on your portion sizes when you eat. An app like MyFitnessPal can help with this, as it will allow you to track your calories fairly easily just by using an app.
Taking Vitamins and Supplements
During pregnancy, you have to take some vitamins and supplements to ensure that you and your baby are both healthy every step of the way.
It’s also a good idea to take some vitamins and supplements after you have had your baby too.
There are a number of reasons why it’s so important to take postnatal vitamins.
Pregnancy can eat up a lot of the nutrients in your body, such as folate and vitamin B6, just to name two of them.
Not only that, but you need even more nutrients when you’re breastfeeding.
Taking vitamins and supplements can help you to ensure that your nutrients are well regulated during the postpartum period. They can also help with your baby’s brain and body as you’re breastfeeding.
How long you need to take the vitamins will depend on you and your needs. For the most part, it is recommended to take them while you are breastfeeding. If you aren’t breastfeeding then you should take them for at least 6 months after you have had your baby.
There are a few key vitamins and supplements that you should think about taking after you’ve had your baby. The first one that you should take is iron. You lose iron during childbirth so you will need to restore what you’ve lost during the postpartum period.
Furthermore, iron is important for breastfeeding, as it helps your baby to develop properly and regulates their thyroid function.
You can also get iron from things such as red meat, liver, leafy vegetables and more, but a supplement helps to ensure you’re getting the right amount that you need.
You should also ensure that you’re taking 15mcg of Vitamin D a day, especially if you are breastfeeding. Many new moms may not be getting enough Vitamin D. If this is the case, you should get your doctor to check out your vitamin D levels.
Vitamin B12 is vital for developing red blood cells, and it’s important that your baby has plenty of it if you’re breastfeeding.
Vitamin B12 can be difficult to get enough of if you’re a vegan or you’re following a macrobiotic diet because it usually comes from animal proteins. So if you follow one of these diets, you should try to take a vitamin B12 supplement.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids are particularly important during the postpartum period. DHA in specific should be incorporated into your diet.
It’s good for breastfeeding of course, but it’s also important for the mom. It helps you to have better mental clarity, it reduces inflammation and it can even reduce the risk of postpartum depression.
Getting the right amount of nutrients is important, but sometimes it just isn’t possible to do so through diet alone. That’s when getting supplements and vitamins are important, as they can help you and your baby to stay healthy during the postpartum period.
Breastfeeding & Nutrient Transfer
As we’ve already established, having the right diet and nutrients after pregnancy is crucial not only for you but also for your little one.
Eating the right foods and having the right nutrients in your breastmilk can certainly impact on your baby.
Little amounts of the things that you eat and drink can actually pass into your baby as you are breastfeeding.
As such, there are certain foods and drinks that you should avoid during pregnancy.
For starters, you should try to stay away from alcohol if you’re breastfeeding. It’s not healthy for your baby. If you are planning on drinking alcohol, then you should think about pumping your milk to feed your baby with later.
You should also avoid having more than around 2 or 3 cups of drinks with caffeine in a day, as caffeine can sometimes impact your baby’s sleep and keep them awake.
While fish is also a fantastic protein source and it does contain very important omega 3 fatty acids, some types of seafood can actually contain mercury.
You should try to limit the amount that you eat, or avoid seafood that has mercury in it, such as swordfish. Try to avoid eating more than 2 portions of oily fish in a week.
Your Post Birth Exercise Timeline
Exercise can be a bit of a daunting task if you’ve recently given birth.
You may be worried about injuring yourself if you’re still fragile, especially if you gave birth via cesarean section.
Exercise may be something you are heavily avoiding just after you’ve given birth, but it is actually a great thing to do.
It should be noted that when you are recovering from the birth, you certainly aren’t going to be training at an Olympic level for the first few weeks.
A long run may also be best avoided at this point. With that being said, easing yourself back into exercise after you’ve given birth is a great thing to do.
There are a few reasons aside from weight loss that you should exercise. First, exercise can improve your mood. It can also keep you protected from any pains and aches, and can even give you more energy!
You may not believe this either, but your stamina is also improved when you exercise, which is certainly beneficial when you’re looking after your baby. If you weren’t very interested in exercise before you gave birth, this is a great chance to start getting into the routine of exercise early on.
To start with, in the days following giving birth you should try to go for some light walks if you are feeling ready for it.
You should also try to do pelvic floor exercises and some gentle stretches. After you’ve been walking for a while, you should start to improve your time and speed in increments in the weeks following. Make sure you stay hydrated while you exercise, too!
In the early weeks after giving birth, you can also go swimming. This is a low impact activity that can be quite relaxing, but it also helps you to get some extra movement into your day. You won’t be able to do it until after you’ve stopped bleeding after giving birth though – you should wait 7 days after the bleeding has ended before you get into the pool.
After around 6 weeks, you may be able to start getting back into more high intensity activities. You should of course check that all is fine in your six week postnatal check-up first, and it will also depend on the kind of birth you have.
As you may imagine, it will take longer to recover from a C-section. You will also need to consider the amount of exercise that you did before you were pregnant, as jumping right into an intense exercise may not be the best move if you didn’t do it before and you haven’t long since given birth.
You should try to ease into more high impact activities, as hormones in your body from pregnancy can actually impact your joints for even as long as 5 months after you’ve given birth.
If you have any doubts about the kinds of exercise that you can do, you should check with your doctor or midwife.
Best Forms of Exercise
There are a number of great exercises you can do after pregnancy.
As we’ve already said, walking is a great place to start. You could take the baby with you, and go on a scenic route in your neighborhood.
Start off slow, and then gradually build up your pace and speed.
You should also take this opportunity to start incorporating some form of resistance training into your routine.
You can do this by using resistance bands, light dumbbells, or you can simply do bodyweight exercises that are suitable for how you are doing physically after the birth.
You should try not to lift anything excessively heavy or practice compound movements that are going to put excessive strain on your body during the first few weeks after giving birth.
Always start lighter than you are useful, then work your way up to heavier weights when you feel ready to do so. For the first 3 months after giving birth, you should also try to avoid things like sit ups and crunches.
You can also do things like cycling, though this may seem a little daunting at first. You can start cycling after around 6 weeks, but you should check with your doctor first to ensure that everything is okay with you first.
Yoga and pilates are very enjoyable forms of exercise after pregnancy too, as are many kinds of low impact aerobic activities.
It should be noted that you don’t necessarily need to leave your baby behind and go to the gym to exercise.
There are plenty of ways to exercise that are perfect for a new mom. For instance, there are some postnatal classes out there that you can do with your baby near to you, such as postnatal yoga, and buggy fit.
There are also a whole bunch of different home workouts you can do. Just search for postnatal exercises on youtube and you will find hundreds of great exercises that you can do.
If you’re into dancing, there are even home dance workouts or video games such as Just Dance which can make working out incredibly fun.
One of the best things about working out at home is that you can even watch tv while you’re doing some exercise plans, and you can watch your baby too.
It is always important to listen to your body when you’re exercising after pregnancy. If anything feels off, you should stop. Before you decide to do any particularly high impact exercises, you should first jump or couch with a full bladder.
If you leak urine when doing so, you may not be ready for high impact exercises.
How To Track Your Progress
Everyone wants to see progress when they’re trying to lose weight, but progress for one person may not be the same as progress for someone else.
The most obvious way to track your progress is by checking the number on the scale, but as you get closer to the body that you want it can be harder to see that number go down.
Not only that, but it can become very easy to become obsessed with the number.
Not only that, but the number on the scale can change on the scale on a regular basis, because of things such as water retention and hormonal changes.
So, how else can you track your health and fitness progress?
One of the most popular ways to track weight loss progress is by taking measurements. You can take measurements of your thighs, hips and biceps.
One of the reasons why this is such a popular method of tracking progress is because muscle can weigh more than fat, so you could be losing weight without seeing the number of the scale move. You can also use devices like fat calipers to see if your body fat percentage is changing.
You can also check your progress by seeing how your clothes are fitting you. Take a photo of yourself in a certain outfit, and then take a photo in the same outfit every month.
It’s best to use a bathing suit so you can see your whole body composition. You may not think you’ve lost weight just by looking in the mirror, but when you look at the comparison between the two pictures you may see a difference.
You may also find your clothes becoming looser on you, which is a good sign that you’re heading in the right direction.
Dealing with the Post Natal Blues
Your mood can be very different after giving birth, and it can feel very overwhelming to deal with motherhood. Looking after yourself and your mental health is important for keeping the baby blues at bay.
One thing that can help you to deal with the post natal blues is to practice some self care.
This may consist of treating yourself, perhaps by lighting some candles, getting a face mask or enjoying a long shower.
Just something that’s purely for you and your enjoyment.
It can also help to get out of the house. Get some fresh air, take in your surroundings. You can even gather with friends.
It’s also important to allow yourself to feel the way that you do to some extent. Realize that these feelings are temporary and if you feel like crying then allow yourself to do so. After you’re done, take some time to do something that will make you smile.
With that being said, sometimes the baby blues can be a sign that something deeper is going on. If your symptoms continue for a long time, you should speak to a mental health expert as you may potentially be struggling with a post natal mental health condition.
Dealing with Isolation and Loneliness
Being a new mother can be lonely sometimes. Often it’s only you and your baby most of the time, and you may find yourself having to stay at home to recover.
You may even find that you have less time to spend with your partner.
How do you deal with these feelings? Well, talking to someone else about how you feel can be a great way to start.
You could talk to a family member, a friend, your partner, or even your doctor about how you feel.
If you are able to, you should also go out of your way to make time to spend with your most important people.
Perhaps you could invite people over to your home, or you could have a hot beverage with some other moms with your baby in tow. You could even join a new mom group.
If you’re struggling to find time to leave the house, you could also take a step into the world of video messaging. Things like Skype, zoom and Facebook messenger video can all help you to stay connected to people without being anywhere near them.
It’s also nice to get out of the house on your own sometimes, so if you can it’s worth leaving your little one with a relative for a while and just catching up with a friend for an hour.
You’re a new mom, you don’t need to be put together all the time and be the perfect host. Sometimes just grabbing a bite of your favorite food with your friends from a takeaway place can be a great way to connect.
How Wellness Benefits Your Mental State
Society has told us that we can’t be selfish, but the truth is, if you don’t look after yourself how can you look after anyone else?
Looking after yourself and practicing wellness can help you to keep both yourself and your baby happy!
For starters, having good mental health can help you to look after your baby. When you’re feeling good, it helps you to raise your baby in a calm environment.
Not only that, but looking after yourself after pregnancy means you’re more likely to feel happy, and this can help you to keep positive relationships with the rest of your family.
Ultimately, practicing self care means that you feel a lot more equipped to handle everything that motherhood throws at you, and you’ll be much happier for it!
The Rest of It: Things to Keep in Mind
Your body changes a lot during pregnancy. The biggest and most noticeable thing is that your stomach grows as your baby does.
This can mean that you may end up getting stretch marks after pregnancy.
Stretch marks can be a cause of insecurity in many new mothers, but rest assured, it’s perfectly normal!
They can sometimes fade into white scars after a while, which means you will notice them less, but they don’t always disappear completely.
Some people say that you can get rid of stretch marks by using things such as coconut oil, but that may not work for everyone.
Some people choose to use things like self tanning products or makeup to hide stretch marks to make them feel better. If you are feeling self conscious, it’s certainly worth having a word with your doctor to see if they can help you to find ways to boost your self esteem.
It can be pretty difficult to dress after pregnancy – nothing ever seems to fit! T
his is especially true if you are trying to lose weight, in which case you could go down several dress sizes as your body gets near to its pre-pregnancy size.
There are some solutions to help you feel great in your postpartum body. Things aren’t going to be back to the way they originally were, but that’s okay!
Some staples of the postpartum wardrobe include things like leggings, which stretch around your waist.
There are also some great postpartum jeans out there – you could even still try to fit into your maternity jeans for now.
Another absolute game changer is some looser tops designed for nursing, especially if you’re breastfeeding. These are really comfortable, and easy to access! You can also try wrap tops and button downs for a similar effect.
The key thing is to choose clothes that you feel good in, clothes that are comfortable for you right now. It’s probably not worth trying to squeeze into your pre-pregnancy jeans for a few weeks or months after you give birth.
Hair & Nail Health
Changes to your hair and nails after pregnancy is a somewhat common phenomenon among new mothers.
Eating a balanced diet can help to ensure that your hair and nail health is well regulated.
During pregnancy, your hair may have been the shiniest and thickest that it’s been in your entire life, but this may change a little after you give birth.
Your hair may start to fall out. This can be down to hormonal changes and things such as stress. You may also find that your nails are more likely to break.
Things that can help with this are eating healthily, and making sure that you are taking prenatal vitamins.
You should also make sure that you are careful when you’re shampooing – don’t do it excessively, and ensure that you have a high quality conditioner.
This may also not be the best time to get out your curling iron if you can avoid it! If you do lose an excessive amount of hair then you should speak to your doctor to check that everything is okay.
If you are struggling with brittle nails, you should also try to get a manicure on a regular basis. You don’t really need to go to a salon for this – simply invest in a good nail buffer and nail strengthener.
Conclusion & Summary: The Final Stretch
Losing weight postpartum can sometimes feel like an impossible task, but by getting your nutrition and exercise under control it can become a lot easier. After giving birth, you can do anything!
While you’re losing the weight, it’s important that you practice wellness and self-care, and keep yourself connected with your friends and family. A little encouragement and support from your loved ones can go a long way!
Hopefully, this guide has helped you to know what to prepare for when losing weight after pregnancy! You’ve got this, momma!